A Special Interview: The Gypsy Medicine Maker happily returns a favour to University of Ubon Rajathanee.
I wrote an email to Dr. Krisana Kraisintu, the Gypsy medicine maker in September 2008, at a time when she was working on her humanitarian project in one of the African countries to enquire about her and her news. As one of her loyal fans, I was worried to hear that she was ill. When I received her reply, she did not mention anything about her health or her welfare. Her email informed me that as soon as she returned to Thailand, she would find the first opportunity to travel to the University of Ubon Rajathanee (UBU). (Ubon Rajathanee is the biggest province in the Northeastern region of Thailand.) I read her email a few times trying to detect any linkages between Dr. Krisana and UBU, but none presented itself to me, which made me even more curious. So I requested a meeting with Dr. Krisana for a special interview to find out more information that I could relay to her other fans and readers.
The date of the interview was set on 8 November 2008. Dr. Krisana kindly allowed me to meet her for this special interview in a coffee shop. I would like to share with you some parts of the conversation that I had with her.
Kibangkok: Sawasdee Krub A-jarn (Hello, teacher in Thai language). How are you? Have you recovered from your illness?
Dr. Krisana: I am better now. Thank you very much for your concerns. It is only a cold. It has been on and off. I think it takes time for me to recover as I am not young anymore.
Kibangkok: In your email, you said that you wanted to go to UBU for a specific purpose but you did not elaborate more in details. I sense the urgency in your message and really wonder what has happened and whether you’ve had any legal problem with UBU.
Dr. Krisana: Ahh… Nothing to worry about my dear. Nothing bad either. I am initiating a special project to return a favour to UBU for helping me overcoming a big difficulty that I faced in Burundi (the poorest country in Africa).
Kibangkok: Were there any problems? What favour did UBU do for you? (I asked the questions feeling more intrigued by the Gypsy pharmacist who gave me her smile brimming with secrets.)
Dr. Krisana: I faced a huge difficulty in my recent visit to Burundi to teach the locals to produce antimalarial drugs because I could not find a tableting machine to make the drug powder into tablets. At first, a Church factory in Burundi agreed to let me and my team use its tableting machine but later on refused to allow us in its factory or to use the machine. I already prepared all the raw materials and taught the local personnel for impending production process when this piece of new sprang up on me. I tried to contact some Thai universities and laboratories to borrow an old tableting machine to Burundi for a short time but according to them, it would take a long time, probably several weeks to get permission from their authorities. Even one of the manufactures of tableting machines in Thailand told me that there were no available machines at that moment, I had to order it to be made which could take many weeks. I was very worried.
Kibangkok: Without the tableting machine, the project would have failed, wouldn’t it?
Dr. Krisana: It was a very important project because the Thai government donated raw materials and gave financial support for the project to be carried out in Burundi. If it succeeded, it would save many many lives. Do you know that newly born babies in Burundi have a very high rate of Malaria infection and baby’s mortality is very high as a result? Each year, a high percentage of children under the age of five die of Malaria. Also, many of the babies were born with HIV virus. They contracted the virus from their mothers. It is very sad and cruel. Burundians are extremely poor, the poorest in the world. They don’t have money and consequently no right to live. Only people with money have the right to live because they can pay for medicine and medical treatment. I set my goal and put a lot of efforts to try to help Burundians to the best of my ability.
Kibangkok: Oh, dear… If you did not have the tableting machine, all the trainings and purchased raw materials would count for nothing. Were you very upset and disappointed?
Dr. Krisana: I was worried but determined to find a solution to the problem. Out of the blue, I thought of one lady and her offer to help me. Her name is Associate Professor Dr. Nongnit Theerawattanasuk, the Dean of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department, University of Ubon Rajathanee (UBU). I immediately called her to borrow a single punch tableting machine (We must use hand and arm (not electricity) to move the machine’s wheel to make tablets.) Dr. Nongnit was very generous and agreed to lend it to me and arranged for her staff to pack it, ready for transportation from Ubon Rajathanee to Burundi via Bangkok. I then coordinated with the officials of the Royal Thai Embassy in Kenya to arrange for someone to bring it to Burundi. All of these happened within 3 days.
Kibangkok: Bravo! UBU is very generous. I think the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at UBU must have a lot of angels.
Dr. Krisana: Of course, they are wonderful people. After I received the tableting machine and put it to use for the project, producing 6,000 antimalarial tablets, I prepared to send the machine back to UBU, the Dean informed me that the Department had made a decision to donate the tableting machine to Burundi for humanitarian purpose of producing the antimalarial tablets. This would help saving many lives from the terrible deaths caused by Malaria.
Kibangkok: I am glad for Burundians to have this chance. I am also moved by the generosity of UBU.
Dr. Krisana: UBU’s donation of the tableting machine may be a small token to others but it means a great deal to me. This tableting machine could determine the life or death of a child who is sick with Malaria. It means the world to the sick people of Burundi. I feel that I am indebted to UBU for this tremendous gesture of kindness and would like to return a favour by doing something for the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBU.
Kibangkok: Now I understand what you meant about traveling to Ubon Rajathanee once you returned to Thailand. Could you tell me what you plan to do for UBU?
Dr. Krisana: I will volunteer to take part in 2 projects at UBU. The first project is to establish a unit for the analysis of Thai herbs. I would like to transfer my knowledge and experience to the personnel of UBU so that the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences has the capacity to analyse a vast variety of Thai herbs that have medicinal properties. This would promote the research and development of new herbal products based on available herbs in the locality of the North East.
Kibangkok: Wowww……. an analytical unit. So in the near future, I will have a chance to see high quality Thai herbal medicines and cream in the market. I wish you the best of lucks and success. By the way, if you produce anti-aging face cream, may I get some of it for my mother?
Dr. Krisana: Yes, the anti-aging cream made from herb extracts was one of the best-selling products that I researched and developed while I was the Director of the Research and Development Institute of the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO). Thai herbal medicines are full of health benefits and we should promote their research and development for producing new products.
Kibangkok: What is your second project at UBU?
Dr. Krisana: The Second project is to set up a factory at UBU to manufacture Thai herbal medicines. It aims to promote the widespread use of herbal medicines among the people in the Northeastern region and increase income for Thai farmers who grow all these herbs. I did spearhead the manufacture of herbal medicines in modern forms (tablet, dissolvable powder, capsule, gel, etc.) on an industrial scale and marketed them while I was working at GPO. This unit will also become a training centre for industrial pharmaceutical training for Thai pharmacy students as well as for personnel from African countries. One of the difficulties that pharmacy students face is to get an internship in a pharmaceutical factory. Pharmaceutical factories tend not to accept internship because it consumes time and expenses in addition to safeguarding their know-how. It is difficult for pharmacy students to get on-the-job training in a real drug factory. I would like to fill in this gap and give the students the opportunity and experience.
Kibangkok: I am very excited to hear about your two projects, really look forward to their success. If I were a pharmacy student, I would be thrilled to get this opportunity. When are you going to start these projects?
Dr. Krisana: I will travel to UBU with Dr. Yang Qiang from Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in November 2008 to hold meetings and discussions with UBU on the implementation of these two projects.
Kibangkok: Dr. Yang Qiang? Who is he? His name sounds like a Chinese?
Dr. Krisana: Dr. Yang Qiang is the Dean of the Department of Bio-Engineering at HIT in the city of Hilong Jiang in Northeastern China. I have been a visiting professor at HIT for over 10 years. When I travel to China, I go to HIT to teach the students there. I’ve an idea to initiate cooperation between UBU and HIT on the exchanges of know-how and technology. I hope that these projects will enable closer cooperation between the two universities so that we will invent, research and develop many new innovations for life-saving medicines. It is my hope.
Kibangkok: A-jarn krub, it is such a marvelous news! I am very glad and full of optimism for UBU and the students. Many people from different occupations, like farmers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), will also benefit from this initiative. Dr. Krisana…You are truly an angel!
Dr. Krisana: Ha…ha (laugh and smile). I don’t know if I can be an angel. I prefer to be a gypsy traveling the world over.
Our conversation almost came to an end when Dr. Krisana lifted her shopping bag, took out one box and gave it to me. She said, “There are small loaves of bread filled with ham in the box. They look very delicious. I bring them for you and your family. I hope you will enjoy them”
I said goodbye to Dr. Krisana and walked away with a box of ham bread. I look forward to meeting her again soon. I also would love to sample her delicious bread again…….our Gypsy medicine maker…. Dr. Krisana Kraisintu.
This article was translated from Thai language to English language by the Dr.Krisan fan club.
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This article was firstly published in Thai Language